Dal Zotto Wins 2020 Halliday Wine Companion 'Dark Horse' Winery of the Year

August 2020

Not long ago, our winemaker Michael Dal Zotto took a call at the winery from a gent claiming to be Australia’s preeminent wine critic, James Halliday. The caller went on to tell Michael that Dal Zotto would soon be a major award winner in the upcoming 2020 edition of the Halliday Wine Companion. Given that practical jokes are a popular sport in the King Valley, Michael was doubtful…but doubt slowly turned to belief and excitement as the conversation continued. Luckily James saw the humour in Michael’s pointed questioning on his legitimacy!

The award that Dal Zotto has now won is the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion Dark Horse Winery of the Year. We had to keep it secret until now, which was NO easy feat but now finally we can tell everybody! And what is the meaning of the award? Every year there is a group of wineries that graduate to 5 Star status after years striving for that level. These are the Dark Horse wineries. And from all of these wineries there is chosen the Dark Horse Winery of the Year. And this year it is Dal Zotto!

Although awards have never been a driving force for Dal Zotto, to say that we are very pleased would be a massive understatement. Our focus as a family has always been about making the wines we love to drink and then inviting people to pour a glass and join us for the ride. In 1999, turning a dream into reality, Otto planted Australia’s first prosecco vineyard, introducing the variety to not only the King Valley but also to Australians everywhere craving an everyday celebration drink that suited them down to the ground. And after the success that followed, brothers Michael and Christian have now taken strides to further develop the variety and styles, using knowledge and inspiration gained from Otto’s family history in Valdobbiadene as well as a solid dose of King Valley ingenuity. The award is for all of this, for all of our wines and, just as importantly, for everyone who has backed us and found their way to a bottle of Dal Zotto.

Along with the award and the 5 Star rating for Dal Zotto, these are the wines tasted by Jane Faulkner, Wine Companion contributor, that have achieved exceptional scores (and descriptions) in the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion.

  • Dal Zotto Col Fondo Prosecco 2017 – 95 points“Col Fondo Prosecco undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle and isn’t disgorged. The flavoursome leesy sediment dances on the bottom, hence ‘col fondo’, literally meaning ‘from the bottom’. This is how Italian prosecco used to be crafted before industrialisation turned it into mostly cheap fizz made in stainless steel tanks. This is complex, refreshing, lightly fizzy with plenty of acidity keeping it alive and kicking.”
  • Dal Zotto ‘Tabelo’ Col Fondo Prosecco 2017 – 95 points“It’s prosecco, but not as you know it. made from partially dried grapes to concentrate flavour with some fresh prosecco added, fermented in bottle col fondo style – so on lees and not disgorged. The result is Australia’s finest, most complex prosecco to date. Cloudy, of course: a lemon barley hue. Ginger, white blossom and lemon zest aromas and the palate is textural yet with plenty of lively acidity and a savoury twist. Bravo.”
  • Dal Zotto L’immigrante Prosecco 2017 – 95 points“Secondary fermentation in bottle and aged 18 months them disgorged. resulting in a delicious and really smart drink. It’s crisp, very dry and spine tinglingly fresh. Wafts of camomile, lemon blossom. It has complexity yet vibrancy with a lightning-rod of acidity right through the middle. L’immigrante sets the standard for this style of prosecco in Australia.”
  • Dal Zotto Arneis 2018 – 95 points“Smells of a spring garden full of blossom and honeysuckle with yellow peach: it’s more aromatic than the variety usually dictates. The palate is bright with light fruit flavours, a hint of lemon and a really spicy almost gingery bite. Refreshing to the last drop. As good as it gets.”
  • Dal Zotto Fiano 2018 – 95 points“Deliciously aromatic with citrus, honeysuckle, creamed honey and ginger cream plus refreshing acidity to keep it lively. Plenty of texture, neat phenolics and a savouriness that all adds up to lots of interest and a terrific drink.”
  • Dal Zotto Sparkling Nebbiolo 2016 – 95 points“A fabulous, albeit different, addition for the prosecco leaders. Secondary fermentation in bottle and on its lees for 3 years. There’s sediment on the bottom – add it in or pour slowly for a clearer pale copper hue. This is fizz that’s laced with savoury flavour and fine acidity: tannins adding more depth – exciting stuff.”

A still very excited Michael Dal Zotto said;

‘Yes, I have to admit, I didn’t believe it at first when James Halliday rang, but for a suspected prankster, he did seem to know a lot about our wines! The Dark Horse Winery of the Year award is one that on reflection really fits Dal Zotto like a glove…we have always been keen to pioneer and champion our favourite and lesser known Italian varieties and styles. Most of them are dark horses…and these wines have scored very highly, and no doubt helped us win the award.’

Christian Dal Zotto adds…

‘Making and selling wine in Australia is a high-risk business…there are no certainties. Pioneering prosecco was an even bigger risk than most but we had faith that there was a home not only in the King Valley for the variety, but that Australians would embrace it. More and more people are discovering the joy of our prosecco as the perfect way to celebrate everyday life. Having the recognition of one of the world’s most respected wine critics, James Halliday, just tops it all off.’

Michael and Christian’s father Otto gave his reaction…

‘This is amazing…all I ever wanted was to build foundations for the future of my family here in the King Valley. To see the success of all of our hard work and the smiling faces of people enjoying wines with the Dal Zotto name on them…it makes it all worthwhile’